• UNCONVENTIONAL WISDOM:

Saturday, May 28, 2011

INDY 500 SATURDAY

FOUNDERS AWARD: I had the honor of announcing and presenting the 2011 Bob Russo Founders Award to my old friend Bill Marvel Saturday morning at the annual AARWBA breakfast in Indianapolis. Later, Bill (left) and I posed with the large permanent plaque in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway media center. I'm very honored to have been the inaugural recepient of the Founders Award in 2005, given for "profound interest, tireless efforts and undying dedication to auto racing as exemplified by Russo." Other names on the plaque include Wally Parks, Chris Economaki, Bob Jenkins, Shav Glick and Bill York.



I'll be on Rick Benjamin's The Checkered Flag show on Sirius XM Satellite radio Sunday morning right after the network's live broadcast of the Monaco Grand Prix.



The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is all about history. What history will be written in Sunday's centennial running of the I500?


Yes, I'm one of those concerned about the first oval-track try at double-wide restarts. Especially in what apparently will be Crash City Conditions -- hot, sunny, humid -- a slick track with tire marbles on the high line. As I wrote yesterday, I haven't talked to one driver here in the last few days who isn't at least a little worried.


Looking toward the future, other issues are on the horizon, clear to see. Namely, the cost of new cars and parts and engines in a sponsor-challenged environment. I have talked off-the-record with a half-dozen current or interested team owners who say, right now, they don't think they'll have the money to buy the new equipment. Will IMS negotiate a very favorable loan package from an Indiana bank? Float some sort of bond issue to raise the $? I don't know, but stay tuned. Meanwhile, on the all-important TV front, some down-arrow news for hard core fans is coming soon, and it will be symbolic of the bigger picture problems. And, after last week's announcer talk of not being able to imagine an I500 without Danica, well, Gentlmen, start your imaginations. Good luck to her if she tries it as a one-off next season -- trying to figure out new chassis setups in a matter of days. Remember, Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart, among others, say it can't be done. At least, not if you want to be truly competitive for the win.


By the way, despite what you may have heard/read elsewhere, it was just whispered into my ear the restart zone isn't going to be as previously announced. Supposedly, this is a compromise on driver safety.

But those are frets for tomorrow and next year. Today I've seen one of the best things I've observed at IMS in quite a few years. In the a.m., there was an autograph session with former winners. This afternoon, there was one with past drivers. These things are significant logistical challenges but as far as I could tell, things went well. I hesitate to try to list the many people I haven't seen for years, who came back for the 100th anniversary Greatest Spectacle, but I was glad to visit with the likes of Roberto Guerrero, Pancho Carter, Bob Lazier, Phil Krueger, Tom Bagley, Robby McGehee, Max Papis, Scott Pruett, lots of others. When I was the CART communications director in the early 1980s, I could call on guys like Krueger, Lazier, Bagley, etc. at the last minute with a PR request and they'd be happy to help. Plus, of course, Rick Mears and Johnny Rutherford. I always appreciated that.


You could tell these autograph sessions were a good idea. Why? Because the drivers and the fans were smiling and having a good time.


That's the way it should be at Indy.




I received three awards in the annual AARWBA journalism contest, results announced Saturday: Third place in the newspaper news writing category; third place for this blog in the web log category; and second place in the online column category.



One more reminder: Please check out the 1,800-plus word story Mark Armijo and I wrote on the history of Arizona racers in the Indy 500 in Sunday's Arizona Republic or at http://www.azcentral.com/


[ one more from Indy Sunday . . . ]